Western Province defeated the Sharks 33-21 at Newlands to secure themselves a home semi-final against the Cheetahs next weekend.
Western Province defeated the Sharks 33-21 at Newlands on Saturday to secure themselves a home semi-final against the Cheetahs next weekend.
Much was made in the build-up of the Sharks' perceived superiority up front, but it was the home side who dominated both in the tight and the loose, with the visitors failing to match Province's creative talents.
The home side were boosted by the return of Jean de Villiers, Schalk Burger, Bryan Habana and Jacques Fourie, and the Springbok quartet were prominent in their team's victory charge.
Willem de Waal opened the scoring for Province in the fifth minute, slotting a penalty in front of the uprights after the Sharks were penalised for going off their feet.
Both sides conceded penalties in the early stages as they looked to stamp their dominance on the game. It was Western Province though who wrestled the ascendancy courtesy of a Gio Aplon try in the corner after a number of phases. Jacques Fourie did well to get his hands through the tackle to put his Springbok colleague into space, although the pass may just have been forward.
De Waal added his second penalty of the game after obstruction from Sharks hooker Bismarck du Plessis and in the process became the second highest points-scorer in Currie Cup history.
It was cut and thrust stuff, with the home side edging the physical battle. However, the Sharks put their first points on the board following some good build up work from flank Michael Rhodes. The ball was spread wide and then chipped through into the in-goal area. Lwazi Mvovo and Gio Aplon dived to dot it down, but the ball sprayed off Aplon's head and Ryan Kankowski showed good awareness to score in the aftermath.
The Sharks came to life in the second quarter but Western Province demonstrated the epic defence they have become renowned for as they kept the Durban-based outfit at bay.
Indeed it was Province who ended the first half on a high, with number eight Duane Vermeulen capping off a lovely break from Juan de Jongh after the centre broke through the midfield.
The start of the second half was punctuated by a succession of knock-ons and penalties, with neither side making any decisive moves. This sparked Sharks coach John Plumtree into action, bringing on Adi Jacobs, Charl MacLoed, Steven Sykes.
The changes failed to inspire the Sharks though, with Western Province thoroughly dominating both position and territory. The home side picked up another De Waal penalty to push their lead to 23-7, meaning the Sharks required more than two converted tries to take the lead.
After a sustained period of pressure the Sharks hit back, with Louis Ludik crossing over shortly after entering the fray. In truth it was the first time the Sharks had looked like scoring in the second half, and the score was one that was desperately required with only fifteen minutes left on the clock.
De Waal responded with a penalty which was followed by the first sustained effort of the half from the Sharks, but as the final whistle neared they failed to make the most of the opportunities they created.
Jean de Villiers sprinted through with just four minutes left on the clock to guarantee a Province victory which hadn't really been in doubt since Vermeulen's try on the stroke of half-time.
It was the Sharks who rounded off the scoring though, with Patrick Lambie putting Adi Jacobs over for a consolation score.
The Sharks now head back to Durban to lick their wounds, with the daunting prospect of facing the Bulls at ABSA Stadium next week while Province prepare for a visit from the Cheetahs in the second semi-final.
For Western Province:
Tries: Aplon, Vermeulen, de Villiers
Cons: De Waal 3 De Waal
Pens: De Waal 4
Tries: Kankowski, Ludik, Jacobs
Cons: Lambie 3
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Jean de Villiers, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Willem de Waal, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Anton van Zyl, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Hanyani Shimange, 17 JC Kritzinger, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Dewaldt Duvenhage, 21 Lionel Cronje 22 Conrad Jantjes.
Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche (c), 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Andre Pretorius, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements:16 Craig Burden, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Louis Ludik.